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Cambridge Rugby Shield


Jan 17

Darlington Mowden Park Home Preview

This Saturday, the Blood and Sand welcome Darlington Mowden Park to Volac Park.

Darlington is of course the home of the railways. Not only the original Stockton and Darlington Line, but a home to railway works that produced some of the most famous steam locomotives, many designed by chief engineer Sir Nigel Gresley.

His designs included:

- the A1 Peppercorn - some may have seen the Typhoon which was recently built at Darlington to the original designs, though with modern safety features;

- the A3 - including the Flying Scot the first steam locomotive to be recorded at 100mph;

- and the streamlined A4 - of which the most famous is Mallard still the fastest steam locomotive, though that specific engine was built at Doncaster. The record run causes a bearing to overheat - so it was not ale to continue the service beyond Peterborough. 

Sir Nigel retired to St. Albans where he bred ducks. There is now a statue of Sir Nigel at King's Cross - though it is missing the duck that was in the maquette.

We travelled to Darlington in hope. We had just had a close encounter with Old Albanian losing narrowly by two points. We hoped the wide pitch at the Northern Echo Arena would let us run - but stubborn home defence kept us out and could not stop the hosts scoring. We did score two late tries but lost 37-12.

Since then Darlington have struggled. Though the winter break may have been good for them. Last week DMP have completed a double over Ampthill winning 14-12 at home. This puts them a point behind Cambridge in the table. However, like many National 1 sides, they do much better at home than on the road. Aside from their early win at Ampthill, their only other away win was at Blaydon.

Ricky Reeves said that when Cambridge are on the front foot with the Cambridge crowd cheering them on - it is the best feeling in the world. The weather forecast is for sunshine following an overnight frost - which should make for running rugby. So come down and give the boys the support they deserve.

You can read Darlington's view of the match here

Dec 16

Rosslyn Park Home Preview

This week Cambridge welcome Rosslyn Park to Volac Park for our third encounter of the season and the first of the return fixtures.

Halfway through the season we sit in tenth with 34 points. If we repeat that in the second half we should stay up - as no side with more that 62 points has been relegated while the league has had 16 teams.

We do have eight home games left, with only seven away trips. We have to travel to Hartpury (1st) and Ampthill (4th), Loughborough (8th), Old Albanain (9th), Fylde (12th), Hull Ionians (14th) and Macclesfield (16th) - so can hope to pick up some useful away points. We play every one else at home. We need to make Volac Park a frotress and add as many as possible at home.

Cambridge made the trip to Rosslyn Park's 3g pitch in Roehampton twice, first for a pre-season encounter which we narrowly lost and then the league encounter in the second week of the season. This led to our first victory of the season, 19-22.

We took the lead with first half tries from Chris Leathem and Lawrence Hutchinson, which the hosts answered with a try and a penalty. They took the lead with three more successful penalties before Cambridge leveled with a James Ayrton try. The hosts missed a penalty and a last minute Dan Lewis drop goal secured the win for Cambridge.

Rosslyn Park had been many people pre-season favourites, but they made a slow start to the season, losing their first four games. They have recovered, and now have a 7-1-7 record.

In their last three games they beat Coventry at home, lost in Hull and thrashed Blaydon at home. Their only away wins are at lowly Fylde and Macclesfield.

However, having been stung at home, they will be motivated to prevent the lowly upstarts (us) from doing double over the old favourites (them). We of couse have other ideas

Cambidge need the help of the 16th man to get back to winning ways, so take time off from the Christmas shopping and come down to Volac Park for some pre-Christmas cheer. 

Dec 16

Ampthill Preview

This Saturday the Blood and Sand welcome Ampthill and District Rugby Club to Volac Park.

The Bedford market town of Ampthill is somewhat overshadowed by its larger neighbours, Bedford and Luton - but it does have an interesting history of its own.

In Ampthill's St Andrew's church there is a monument to local man Richard Nicolls. He had commanded a royalist troop in the Civil War and on the restoration he joined the household of the King Charles younger brother James. As part of the Second Anglo-Dutch war Richard led the flotilla that captured New Amsterdam and renamed it for his patron, the Duke of York. Although the English were humiliated when the Dutch fleet raided the Medway and were forced to sue for peace- the Dutch did not press for the return of the American colonies.

Nicholls returned home in 1672, just in time for the start of the third Anglo-Dutch war. He died at the naval battle of Solebay off Southwold and his monument contains the cannon ball that killed him. Later in that war the Dutch temporarily recaptured the New Netherlands - adopting the name New Orange, but they surrendered it at the end of the war. In 1972, Adnams celebrated the tercentenary of the battle with a new beer Broadside.

The Ampthill manor house Houghton House belonged to another of James followers Thomas Bruce. Thomas followed James into exile after the Glorious Revolution, selling the house to the Russell family - who lived nearby at Woburn. They sold the contents and stripped the roof - leaving the house to decay. It is now an English Heritage property. It is said John Bunyan based the House Beautiful in Pilgrim's Progress on Houghton - Pilgrim's journey in the story mirroring the real journey between Bedford and Luton.

There are record of rugby being played in Ampthill as far back as 1881 but the current Ampthill and District Rugby Club was founded in 1950. It moved to the current location in 1959. They played in the lower Midlands division until about ten years ago, when they won Midlands 3 East (South) in the 06/07 season. Two seasons later they were Midlands 2 East champions and in 2012/13 were champions of National 3 Midlands.

We met Ampthill in the 13/14 season. Although geographically South of Cambridge, as a Midlands club they would expect to go North, but they were level transferred South due to an abundance of Northern clubs. In a mixed season for Cambridge they won both our encounters. The match at Volac Park ended at three tries apiece, but someone forgot to pack kicking boots so we lost 15-25. When we visited Dillingham Park we had no answer for their hard running centres and lost 40-10. They finished the season second, to Hartpury College, but lost the play-off against Darlington Mowden Park in extra time.

With two Northern teams promoted, Ampthill returned North the following season and again finished second, this time to Hull Ionians. They beat Bishop Stortford in the play offs to gain promotion. Last season they finished fourth. This season they are sitting in fifth. They beat Plymouth at home last week with a second half fight back.

They will be tough opposition, but if Cambridge can find the pace in attack they showed against Hull and the defence they put up against Fylde and in the second half at Blaydon - there is hope of a first victory. The 16th man is definitely needed, so put off the Christmas shopping another day and come and cheer the Blood and Sand and help make it Fortress Volac Park.

Dec 16

Blaydon Preview

This Saturday we head to Blaydon.

Blaydon arrived in National 1 in 2007 and have remained there since So we played them for 5 seasons, which means I have used up most of what I know about the town in previous issues. On the South bank of the Tyne, traditionally in the County Durham but now in Tyneside - it is a suburb of Newcastle/Gateshead historically home to the race course made famous in Geordie Ridley's song - but now best known for the Metro Centre.

As a convenient place to ford the Tyne it featured in the wars between England and Scotland. In 1640 King Charles' army was defeated here by the Scottish Covenanters - which led to him recalling Parliament for the first time in 13 yeas to raise necessary funds. His ongoing disputes with Parliament led to the Civil War. Eight years later Cromwell camped here on the way to the battle of Dunbar. It is also home to coal mines, the fires set by King Charles army set a seam on fire which burned for several years. This led to commercial mining and to coking works then to power stations - though they now lie under the Metro centre.

The Swalwell Hoppings were as big an entertainment as the races. Swalwell is the next village to Blaydon and home to the Rugby Club. Hoppings are of course dances - but this seems to have been much more. Traditionally held on Whit Monday, in the 18th Century the entertainment included `Dancing for Ribands, grinning for tobacco, women running for smocks, foot races for men, ass races and a man who would eat a live cockerel, feathers entrails and all.' And of course plentiful food and ale. In later years the Hoppings attracted fairground rides The Hoppings died out in the 1960s but have been revived in recent years in much reduced form at the Rugby Club.

Which is of course the propose of our trip.

This season Blaydon are not doing that well. They have two wins (Fylde and Hull Ionians) and a draw with Macclesfield. They sit bottom of the table level on points with Macclesfield and a point behind Hull Ionions. However, they did get a losing bonus point at Coventry - so they cannot be taken for granted. It is one of the longest journeys of the season, so Cambridge will have to get off the coach and switch on immediately if there is not to be an upset.

Although it is a long trip it is a simple journey, head up the A1 past the Angel of the North, round the Newcastle ring road and turn left just past the Metro Centre. Alternatively you could take the train. Though I recall that when the Blood and Sand team did that one year they somehow 'missed' the last train home - and thus were forced to spend an evening out in the Bigg Market which I am told was a great hardship for the lads. If you do make a weekend of it, you can be assured that no matter how cold the weather, the welcome will be warm.

The weather forecast suggests that the frosts have passed and it should remain above freezing from now until Saturday. Conditions on the day are expected to be cold but dry with little wind - so good for running rugby. 

Nov 16

Clubbouse Extension

Dear Members, Friends and Supporters,

You may be aware that the club has a planning application approved for the construction of a much needed extension to improve our changing room and gym facilities.

We currently have a number of portacabins in a delapidated condition and because of this and an expired temporary planning consent, they need to be removed at the end of this season. These units are where our Mini & Youth children currently have to change which, due to the leaking roofs, broken windows and holes in the floor, is very unsatisfactory.

In addition if we have more than one Senior game on a Saturday there can be as many as 6 teams (120 players) sharing the same facilities which comprises a shower block in need of complete repair & refurbishment.

If we are to make our facility fit for purpose we need to raise £500,000 to carry out the extension & improvements.

A very large sum but one we have already made huge strides towards raising through the following...

  • The RFU have confirmed grants and loans of £170,000
  • The land fill tax fund have indicated that we can apply for up to £50,000 and our current application for funds is under consideration
  • The City Council have approved £200,000 s106 funds subject to a condition that the club can raise the balance of the funds required
  • We have also had discussions with other possible sources of third party grants and will make applications in line with their award cycles

With this improvement, at long last we can commit to be a leading club in girls and womens rugby and increase our Colts and Senior mens teams to ensure all players have a team to play in and there is a pathway from mini to senior rugby. This also gives us an opportunity to expand its use to other clubs and societies in line with the requirements of third party funding.

Without the investment in improved facilities none of this can take place and we will not retain our position as the leading club in East Anglia for all age groups & genders. To achieve our target we need to raise £80,000 and ask that you consider making a donation to ensure we deliver the facility we need. Your support will be recognised and remembered on a proposed supporters board.

Please make a donation to our “Changing Room Fund” via the Cambridge Rugby Union Football Club Community Account. Your money will be held in this account and if for any reason the project does not go ahead your money will be refunded.

Account details are: CRUFC Community, Acc No: 83277232 Sort: 20-17-35

Thank you for your kind support.

Steve Bowller

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